Category: Gig Reviews

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Yo Gabba Gabba Live!

The Palais Theatre, St Kilda VIC, June 11.

Modern music-going culture is something we usually attribute to the darkness of night; late nights spent drunkenly pounding the floor at The Corner or stomping the streets and alleyways of Fitzroy or Collingwood, cast under the vague smell of urine and the vague threat of drug addicts, in the attempt to realise some sort of aural nirvana supplied by some obscure musical prospect. As such, it was to my surprise to find myself venturing out into the oppressive morning light to catch the latest thing in music at The Palais… a kid’s stage show? Yep, DJ Lance Rock and the rest of the Yo Gabba Gabba gang were once again bringing simple musical joys to the kiddies of Australia with Yo Gabba Gabba Live!, a stage show based on the popular kid’s TV show, leading me to drag myself to the event with coffee in one hand (coffee being the strongest inebriate available at that time of day) and a borrowed (stolen?) toddler in the other.

It’s easy to see why Yo Gabba Gabba can be so popular with small children, parents and slightly stoned Arts students alike. The colourfully-suited crew alone are enough to engage even the most discerning of toddler, but to consider that aspect alone as a basis of merit would simply be far too shallow. While DJ Lance Rock has the hosting style of a seasoned theatre veteran after a stroke, his energy and ability to engage is undeniable. It was evident that the kids truly love him, and he was truly comfortable as he joined the audience during one musical number for high fives and brief hellos.

The musical numbers themselves are a genuine treat of upbeat but not overly-infectious songs that actually contain some lyrical merit beyond what the kids in the audience would understand. While some songs simply spruiked the joys of dancing, others encouraged love and acceptance of others who are ‘different’, and another of eating your vegetables. One song, while addressing one of the characters’ fear of the dark (Don’t be afraid / Don’t be afraid / I am right here, and I am with you / Don’t be afraid), actually goes some way to expressing the human condition; who can honestly say that they haven’t at one time just wanted someone to be there for them?

Like the TV programme, the live show was filled with special guests. Legendary beatboxer Biz Markie reprised his role from TV, leading some audience participation beatboxing and choosing a select few adorably-bad tots to beatbox one-on-one with him, an exclusive opportunity that will probably be cited on those kid’s resumes in fifteen years’ time once they recognise their brush with hip-hop royalty. Unexpected humour was provided by comedian Dave “Hughesy” Hughes, who awkwardly stumbled through the course of teaching the audience a brand new dance, and some inoffensive musical good times and indie cred was provided by Melbourne band Little Red, who engaged the youngsters and parents with last years’ hit, “Rock It”.

My one major criticism is the choice of The Palais as venue, as it pretty much rendered the opportunity to dance along impossible, but ultimately the Yo Gabba Gabba live show was an all-around enjoyable concert experience. If you have found this review on the Radio Monash website, then there is a good chance that you don’t have a child yourself, but I’d encourage you to forget your age and instead involve yourself with the beautiful simplicity of the show and the music that the Yo Gabba Gabba crew create. Essentially, that is what every fan is pursuing; the simple pleasure of enjoying music. And the odour of faeces here was still considerably less than that encountered during the average visit to The Tote.

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“Rock of Ages” Review

Even if you didn’t live through them yourself, who doesn’t love the enduring music of the eighties? High energy, big hair, Lycra spandex, girlie shows, property developers, tree-huggers, music dreams and LA. “Rock of Ages” is the show that has it all.

Music from the electrifying eighties blares through the theatre from the moment you arrive. The open set is styled as The Bourbon Room, a famous live music venue on the Sunset Strip. It has the look and feel of the birthplace of rock ‘n roll that it claims to be. From the moment you enter the auditorium you are in the decade of dreams.

The Bourbon Room is about to preside over the last gig of its most famous product, glam rock band Arsenal, whose lead singer is Stacee Jaxx. Stacee Jaxx is a star and stars are undeniable – like herpes. Ladies love him, guys want to be him. But his band hates him.

Drew, who likes to go by his stage name, Wolfgang von Colt, is a bar hand at The Bourbon Room. His dream is to make it big as a rock ’n roll star in his own right. But does he want it badly enough? Drew’s rock star dreams become confused when he meets and falls for Sherrie, an ambitious young actress who is truly F.O.K.T (Fresh off the Kansas Train).

Justin Burford, ARIA award winning leader of Perth band The End of Fashion, plays the role of Drew. Man, you just have to get a load of the pipes on this guy. He packs a lot of energy into the role, wins the audience (and Sherrie) over with a smile and rocks out on classic 80’s songs like “Nothin’ But A Good Time”, “I Wanna Rock”, “Cum on Feel the Noise” and “Here I Go Again” mixing it up with ballads like “Waiting For A Girl Like You” and “Oh Sherrie”.

Amy Lehpalmer brings her own fantastic voice to Sherrie’s Kansas-girl-lost-in-LA. Working at The Bourbon Room – courtesy of Drew and her own fine arse which impresses Dennis Dupree, owner of the club – and finding friendship (or is it more?) with nice-guy Drew, Sherrie finds herself torn between her own dreams and the harsh LA world outside. An encounter with Stacee Jaxx in the gents at The Bourbon Room results in her being tossed to the wolves.

Lehpalmer struts a very fine figure on the stage and puts her powerful voice to good use in songs like “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, “Any Way You Want It” and “High Enough” and hits the right emotive levels on “Harden My Heart” and “I Hate Myself For Lovin’ You”.

The show is narrated for the audience by Lonny, played with a twinkle in his eye by Brent Hill. Lonny is the wise-cracking side-kick of club owner Dennis and does his best to stir up some mischief beyond the fourth wall with his constant byplay with the audience. Hill holds his own in the singing and dancing stakes, although the talent on this stage is just amazing.

Stacee Jaxx is played with a malevolent grin by Michael Falzon, star of “We Will Rock You” and now a much in demand actor on the London West End. Jaxx is the rock star who just needs a good smack in the mouth. Or will his physical torture involve other parts of his body?

This show is truly an ensemble piece with strong performances from all the cast, many of whom have amazing voices and awesome dance moves of their own. Look out for Joey Primo (Alexander Ellis), Regina (Francine Cain) and Waitress #1 (Samantha Hagen). Newcomer to professional music-theatre, Lincoln Hall plays the dominated son, Franz to David Whitney’s over-bearing father, Hertz. Hit Me With Your Best Shot in lycra leotards? Who would have thought?

Will Drew and Sherrie find each other? Can The Bourbon Club be saved from the clutches of German property developer, Hertz and his son, Franz? And what of the shock break-up of supergroup, Arsenal? The only way to find out is to head along to the classic Comedy Theatre and be there for The Final Countdown to stardom or oblivion.

Rock of Ages is now showing at the Comedy Theatre in Exhibition Street.

So do yourself a favour – take advantage of the newly released Student Special $39 tickets (available from the box office 2 hours prior to the show, cash only, 1 ticket per student ID) to get along for a night packed with fun, laughs and some of the best musical theatre you will see anywhere in the world.

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Byron Bay Bluesfest, 2011

Tyagarah NSW, April 21 – 26.

Campbell McNolty and Leigh MacDonald

Byron Bay was swamped by nearly 120,000 music fans of all ages over the six-day festival. The line-up was the most spectacular in Bluesfest’s 22-year history.

ZZ Top played on the first night, and they were still gloriously bearded. It was hard to tell whether they were trying to parody themselves, but they were as entertaining as ever.

The Snowdroppers demonstrated the perfect fusion of balls to the wall rock with a blues and country knack for story telling. The addition of banjo to some otherwise straight up rock tunes not only justified their inclusion on the bill but added a flair which many modern rock bands lack. The front man was in equal parts irritating and incandescent, but his dominating, often maniacal stage presence raised the final song, a cover of ‘Shout’, to fever pitch.

The Blind Boys Of Alabama played to a full house, and were so enthusiastic that they had to be repeatedly sat down by their minders to stop them hurting themselves.

Jackson Firebird’s dirty blues-rock got the crowd excited, but no one was as geared up as Kram, who made a spectacularly drunken guest appearance, dancing on stage before being escorted away for his own safety.

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson provided a master class in keeping young. Unlike many of the older acts on the Bluesfest lineup, the band lived up to the live performance that made them famous. Central to their live show is Anderson’s acrobatics on the flute. Far beyond being a gimmick the addition of the woodwind instrument takes the band far beyond a simple male fronted 70’s era rock band. Over the course of their one-hour set the band played many of their best-known songs, mostly from Aqualung.

On Monday night, Bob Dylan was as disappointing as everyone expected. He played an hour of obscure bluesy arrangements of his less popular songs, and refused to speak to the crowd or have the camera feed displayed on the big screens. Despite playing a nearly identical set list on the Tuesday, he was much more enjoyable if you lowered your expectations the second time around.

Those who could deal with the constant rain and ankle deep mud of the Tuesday were rewarded with a stellar set by Paul Kelly, who played with sisters Vika and Linda Bull and guitarist Ash Naylor.

The draw card act on the final day was George Clinton, an act many may have missed in favour of Bob Dylan’s second set. The timetable clash was unfortunate as Clinton’s P-Funk Allstars delighted the crowd with a slew of Parliament and Funkadelic classics. ‘We Want the Funk’ and ‘Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadooloop’ were favourites for a crowd of diehards that was eager to dance. Perhaps the high point was a rendition on the ten-minute guitar solo track ‘Maggotbrain’ which was remarkably true to the original recording. Having reached the age of seventy Clinton’s extravagant lifestyle has taken its toll and his voice lacks its previous sonority, but his band are intergalactic funk pioneers of the highest order.

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The Chemical Brothers Live 09/03/11

Before headlining Future Music Festival, still riding the highs from the release of their 2010 big-beat/psychedelic effort ‘Further’, the Chemical Brothers were kind enough to grace Melbourne with a full-length sideshow at the Rod Laver Arena on the ninth of March, supported by Art vs Science, James Holroyd and Zane Lowe of BBC Radio One. I got there about an hour after doors opened and caught the tail-end of Art vs Science, who sounded pretty tight and had the crowd going.

Don’t even get me started on James Holroyd: a total dickhead dropping appallingly bad commerical electro and top-forty rubbish with inane MCing over the top. Didn’t have a working subwoofer, either. Awful, awful. Was vaguely concerned by the fact that the crowd seemed to genuinely be getting into it – Future Entertainment gigs always seem to pull the most obnoxious kind of crowds, but in any case… Zane Lowe played for about forty-five minutes, from memory – musically speaking, a complete breath of fresh air. Rolling basslines; heavy, relentless cuts of deep house and minimal. Moody, evolving and always surprising, but not overwhelmingly so: an excellent build-up for the main act of the night.

The Chemical Brothers started around nine-fifteen and literally did not stop their aural assault for a full two hours. Aural assault of says it all about their set, really: a nonstop, absolute riot with a crowd of bodies that couldn’t stop dancing madly for the whole set. They’re the kind of electronic act that really know how to get a crowd off. One of the main weaknesses of most dance music acts who play live is that their performances can seem really stale and hackneyed – they don’t seem like they’re putting in any effort, it’s just pushing start and stop in front of a laptop or two. Not these guys, though, and I think that’s one of the main drawcards of the Chemical Brothers that puts them up there with the best in live dance music – their ability to respond to the feel of a crowd and work off them was incredible, a total joy to be a part of.

Two straight hours of watching them mix it up, playing both the old and the new with seamless transitions between tracks – everything from Exit Planet Dust to their latest album got love. ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’, ‘Leave Home’ and ‘Chemical Beats’ were highlights that had the old-school ravers rocking out hard, and hearing material fresh from Further was similarly incredible – ‘Horse Power’ had Rod Laver Arena completely letting loose to its roaring synthesisers and immense beats; the heady, unbridled joy of ‘Swoon’ had an ecstatic audience chanting “just remember to fall in love – there’s nothing else” as one, eyes closed and hands in the air.

‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’, ‘Star Guitar’, ‘Galvanise’, ‘Do It Again’ – hit after hit complemented perfectly by the stage setup they’ve developed for their Further tour, featuring video projections and clips from their music videos responding in time with the music, as well as an insane light show. Watching the lights slowly brighten as they made their presence on stage known, surrounded by a cage of lights – whoa.

A complete pleasure and an inspiration to watch – the brothers gonna work it out, indeed.

The Chemical Brothers, ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’